During his weekly press conference, House Speaker Paul Ryan noted the ridiculous brouhaha that erupted last week over the dress code in the Speaker’s Lobby. “The Sergeant at Arms was simply enforcing the same interpretation of the rules as under my predecessors,” Ryan said. He continued, “This is nothing new and certainly not something that I devised.
“At the same time that doesn’t mean that enforcement couldn’t stand to be a bit modernized. So that is why we will be working with the Sergeant at Arms to ensure the enforcement of appropriate business attire is updated.”
Ryan added that there was no need to “bar otherwise accepted contemporary business attire.”
All of this was a response to a series of misleading stories published last week claiming that Speaker Ryan was behind the strict dress code in the Speaker’s Lobby, an area where reporters congregate to ask questions of House members. As I pointed out here, several news outlets including Esquire and Newsweek (as well as numerous people on Twitter) compared the dress code to the Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian, feminist novel recently made into a TV series.
Many of the outlets that ran with the story later added corrections noting that the same dress code has been in place for years, long before Ryan was Speaker. Also, it’s worth noting that the rules apply to both men and women, i.e. men are required to wear a jacket and tie.
The debate raised last week focused on whether or not women should be allowed to wear sleeveless tops and open-toed shoes. Republican Rep. Martha McSally made a point of challenging the rules on the House floor Wednesday. “Before I yield back, I want to point out I’m standing here in my professional attire, which happens to be a sleeveless dress and open-toed shoes,” McSally said.